Roy, Miller develop blind trust, and Blazers follow
Portland Trail Blazers guards Brandon Roy and Andre Miller still have not had an in-depth one-on-one conversation.
Not a single night out spent discussing their lives and the game they love during a quiet dinner.
Not a single moment during which the Blazers guards have used down time on the road before or after a game or practice to divulge their inner-most thoughts and beliefs about anything relating to Blazer basketball and the roles they play in its playoff-bound success.
Six months ago, a lack of meaningful dialogue between Roy and Miller would have immediately been used to point out that their time together in black and red was never going to work. Some would have said that the humble, reserved Roy was secretly too needy. Others would have theorized that Miller was the worst type of veteran — selfish, stuck up and stuck in his ways.
But now, those who attempted to break up Roy and Miller before their relationship even took flight have all been proven wrong.
And it did not take a breakthrough moment. There was no shining light, nor an instance when the two realized they had much more in common than they did things that kept them apart. The blending of Roy and Miller took just one thing — and it was the one thing they publicly asked for ever since their association together in Portland began: time.
“It’s never changed. It’s just about getting comfortable,” Miller said. “I’ve always thought with the opportunity, I can help guys get better. It just takes a little time. Sometimes, we get stuck in our ways and don’t want to adjust to something different. And I don’t know if that was the case. But I think he was open from the start — it just takes time.”
Out of time
Roy and Miller acknowledged that time was not on their side when the season began. A young Portland team was coming off a surprising 54-win season and its first playoff appearance in five years. Factor in natural growth, maturation and the offseason addition of Miller, and many wanted instant improvement.
A preseason battle between Miller and incumbent starter Steve Blake for the starting point guard position then added a little old-fashioned drama to already-heavy expectations. As did a statement by Roy that he preferred playing with Blake.
Six months later, Roy smiled wide and laughed when his words were brought up. But he also paused for several seconds before addressing the issue. Roy said he had played two years with Blake, thus he naturally felt more comfortable playing with the pass-first point guard who now suits up for the Los Angeles Clippers. But Roy acknowledged that he should have used a filter before inadvertently praising Blake over Miller.
“It got blown out of proportion outside of the team,” Roy said. “I don’t think the team ever blew it up. Like, ‘Oh, Brandon and Dre: (Roy) likes Steve, and there’s a beef there!’ I’m glad it’s over with.
“I’ve got to be smarter with how I say things, because people will run them. But I’ve always made the statement that, as me and Andre play together, we’ll get better. And I feel like from (February), we were rolling.”
They definitely have been.
Roy missed 14 out of 15 games from Jan. 15-Feb. 10 due to a hamstring injury. Since his return, the Blazers have gone 16-6, vaulting to a first-round position in the upcoming playoffs.
The trade-deadline acquisition of center Marcus Camby and the ascension of forward Nicolas Batum have all propelled Portland. But at the heart of the Blazers’ revival has been the in-time rhythm that now ticks whenever Roy and Miller are on the court.
Early-season questions about whether Roy and Miller could coexist have been trashed. Meanwhile, analytical theories posting that Roy’s need to control the ball in the half-court offense would run contrary to Miller’s main assets as a point guard have been discarded.
“I felt they could play together,” Blazers coach Nate McMillan said. “Miller knows how to play and so does Brandon. It was just a matter of time — of those guys learning to play together and learning to play off of each other.”
Now that Roy and Miller have spent more than six months absorbing the ins and outs of each other’s game, initial discomforts have been smoothed over. McMillan said that as soon as Roy sees Miller backing down an opposing point guard, the three-time All-Star spaces the floor and positions himself near the perimeter. Miller now understands that, even if Roy is having an off night from the field, the fourth quarter still belongs to The Natural.
“We learned that (Miller) had an open mind, because he’s adopted our philosophy on all fronts, and has adapted his playing style to it,” Blazers lead assistant coach Dean Demopoulos said. “For an older player who’s been a very successful player to tweak his approach speaks volumes about who he is, and it’s made us better. Now, we’re seeing the fruits of it.”
But the synchronicity between Roy and Miller also comes down to trust. Or, as Roy put it with a proud smile, “blind trust.”
“We’ve never had a one-on-one,” Roy said. “I don’t think that’s how you grow with him.”
In its place: Six months’ worth of small and large off and on-the-court actions that have proven to Roy and Miller they can fully trust each other. It is the type of trust that can only be formed with experience and time; one that is founded out of sincere mutual respect.
“If I get that sense that you care, you’ll get an even much better effort out of me,” Roy said. “And I think he feels the same way.”
Miller’s strong desire to win — and make it out of the first round of the playoffs for the first time in his career — was nowhere more evident than during Portland’s impressive 92-87 road victory over Oklahoma City on March 28.
The reserved, softspoken Miller has slowly come out of his protective shell since training camp. During the past month, he has yelled out more and more during games — screaming that the Blazers’ defense needs to get a stop or man up during a crucial moment. But what Roy heard coming from Miller’s mouth against the Northwest Division-rival Thunder was the clearest point to date that the 11-year veteran has truly become a Blazer: Miller was talking trash.
“I was kind of like, ‘Ah!’ ” Roy said laughing.
Asked for specifics, Roy said they were impossible to give.
“With Dre it’s hard to tell,” Roy said. “But he’s talking. He’s not looking at the guy. He’ll say something and run down the court. And I’m like, ‘Get it, Dre!’ ”
Blazers guard Brandon Roy missed 14 out of 15 games from Jan. 15-Feb. 10 due to a hamstring injury. Since Roy returned to the lineup Feb. 16 against the Los Angeles Clippers, Portland has gone 16-6. In that time, Roy’s on-the-court relationship with starting point guard Andre Miller has blossomed.
Since Feb. 16 Season
Pts. Ast. Reb. Pts. Ast. Reb.
15.5 5.7 3.6 14.1 5.5 3.3
Pts. Ast. Reb. Pts. Ast. Reb.
19.8 4.1 4.1 21.9 4.7 4.4
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